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Johann Ackermann takes over as Lions coach

John Mitchell (left) and Johan Ackermann (right) in happier times with the Lions

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Article Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012|

Former Springbok lock Johan Ackermann has taken over coaching of the Lions in Super Rugby after the Golden Lions Rugby Union suspended coach John Mitchell.

The Lions have confirmed that Mitchell has been suspended to provide the Union with the opportunity to investigate certain allegations and for Mitchell to face a disciplinary hearing.

It is understood that at least 20 players have listed formal grievances against Mitchell who had similar problems when he was the Force in Perth.

Reports have surfaced that some players have listed more than one grievance against Mitchell so he will have to answer to more than 30 separate allegations of mis-management.

Lions President, Kevin de Klerk said, "We are fortunate to be in a position where we have two experienced assistant coaches (Johan Ackermann and Carlos Spencer) who are able to step in during this period".

"Where necessary, and for the time being, Johan Ackermann ( Lions Forward Coach), in conjunction with the management team, will make the necessary team related and technical decisions."

Players are said to have been unhappy with Mitchell for some time but last week took the matter to a new level by putting their complaints in writing as verbal complaints were not yielding results.

An emergency board meeting was setup on Thursday last week and it was agreed that Mitchell would be suspended.

The complaints against Mitchell are said to be his lack of professionalism, and his continual swearing and belittling of players in front of their peers.

"We are formalising our case and will issue our disciplinary document some time this week," De Klerk told the Times.

"I want to make it clear that the decision to suspend John was not a knee-jerk reaction but a decision that came from a well-documented list of grievances.

"People forget that players are professional employees these days and, as such, have labour rights and are allowed to exercise those rights through the correct channels.

"Gone are the days when players could be pushed around and abused - and I encountered that as a player. I'm reluctant to call this a show of player power because I believe this has come from a group of honourable young men who had exhausted all other avenues before coming to the management with these complaints.

"I know it looks like John's position, regardless of the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, is untenable but I can't say that is definitely going to be the case.

"He needs to have his hearing, which is a legal right, and we can only go forward from there."

The Lions will be represented by lawyer Frikkie Erasmus.

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